is a setting of the Latin Te Deum
text by Estonian-born composer Arvo Pärt
commissioned by the Westdeutscher Rundfunk Radio in Cologne, Germany
in 1984. Dedicated to the late Alfred Schlee of Universal Edition
, the WDR Broadcast Choir premiered the Te Deum under the direction of conductor Dennis Russell Davies on January 19, 1985. It was recorded on the ECM
New Series label in 1993 by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
and Tallinn Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Tõnu Kaljuste
. The piece is approximately thirty minutes long.
The work is scored for three choirs (women’s choir, men’s choir, and mixed choir), prepared piano, divisi strings, and wind harp. According to the Universal Edition full score, the piano part requires that four pitches be prepared with metal screws and calls for “as large a concert grand as possible” and “amplified.” The wind harp is similar to the Aeolian Harp, its strings vibrating due to wind passing through the instrument. Manfred Eicher of ECM Records “recorded this ‘wind music’ on tape and processed it acoustically.” The two notes (D and A) performed on the wind harp are to be played on two separate CD or DAT recordings. According to the score preface, the wind harp functions as a drone throughout the piece, fulfilling "a function comparable to that of the ison in Byzantine church music, a repeated note which does not change pitch."
On an ECM records leaflet, Pärt wrote that the Te Deum text has “immutable truths,” reminding him of the “immeasurable serenity imparted by a mountain panorama.” His composition sought to communicate a mood “that could be infinite in time—out of the flow of infinity. I had to draw this music gently out of silence and emptiness.” (Hillier 140)
Pärt divides the Te Deum text into 17 sections, but these are not perceived as separate movements due to the wind harp drone, which serves as a bridge between them, and also because the sections are attacca. However, there are two perceivable divisions with rests and fermatas over the final double-bars, resulting in the creating of three large groupings:
- Sections 1-6: Praise of God the Father
- Sections 7-12: Christological statements and supplications
- Sections 13-17: Reorientation of praise and further supplication, “Amen/Sanctus” coda.
The text is revealed by a formulaic presentation:
- Initial chant presentation: unison or two-voice chanting of text. The melody resembles the rise and fall of Gregorian chant, though no chant material is borrowed. The text is colored by being set in a syllabic, pneumatic, or melismatic style.
- Commentary on presented text: one of two options that further illuminate the previous text:
- Divisi choirs repeat text with strict separation of melody-voice and tintinnabuli-voice.
- Orchestral interlude lasting 10-28 measures
(See Hillier for a thorough discussion on Pärt’s tintinnabuli compositional technique, pp. 86-97)
- Bonner, Stephen: ‘Aeolian Harp’, Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy grovemusic.com (subscription access).
- Borthwick, Alastair. “Review: Arvo Pärt.” Music and Letters 79 (1998): 308-309.
- Bruce, David. “Review: More Than the Sum.” The Musical Times 138 (1997): 35.
- Clarke, David. “Parting Glances: David Glarke Reappraises the Music and the Aesthetics of Arvo Pärt.” The Musical Times 134 (1993): 680-684.
- Hillier, Paul: ‘Arvo Pärt,' Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy grovemusic.com (subscription access).
- Hillier, Paul. Arvo Pärt. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.
- Jeffers, Ron. Translations and Annotations of Choral Repertoire, Volume I: Sacred Latin Texts. Corvallis, Oregon: Earthsongs, 1988.
- Lake, Steve. “Letter from Steve Lake.” Tempo 215 (2001): 68.
- McCarthy, Jamie. “An Interview with Arvo Pärt.” The Musical Times 130 (1989): 130-133.
- Mellers, Wilfrid. “Review: Te Deum; Silouans Song; Magnificat; Berliner Messe.” The Musical Times 134 (1993): 714.
- Murphy, Paul. “Further Parting Glances.” The Musical Times 135 (1994): 137.
- Pärt, Arvo. Te Deum, für Drei Chöre, Klavier, Streicher, und Tonband. Vienna: Universal Edition, 1984.
- Pärt, Arvo. Te Deum. ECM Records, ECM 1505, 1993.
- Quinn, Peter. “Out with the Old and in with the New: Arvo Pärt’s ‘Credo.’” Tempo 211 (2000): 16-20.
- Quinn, Peter. “Review: Arvo Pärt.” Tempo 202 (1997): 26-27.
- Smith, Geoff. “An Interview with Arvo Pärt: Source of Invention.” The Musical Times 140 (1999): 19-25.
- Supin, Dorian. Arvo Pärt: 24 Preludes for a Fugue. Idéale Audience International, 2002.